Today is Go Texan Day, which is a Houston-area celebration of the kickoff of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. When I was a kid I wore a school uniform everyday, and Go Texan Day was special because we got to wear cowboy & western gear to school. Now that I’m an adult, I still like to follow the tradition, and have my donned my ropers for the occasion.
Another cool tradition with the Houston Rodeo is the BBQ & chili cook-off which has been going on this week as the trail-riders head into town. And if you know anything about Texas chili, you know that it doesn’t have beans (yay for Paleo!).
So here’s my tribute to the Texas chili tradition. It’s also a favorite for cook-day because it lasts so long in the fridge and freezes well.
So tonight I kind of Iron Chef’d it because I needed to use up mushrooms, chicken tenders, & zucchini… so we had Chicken Marsala (a favorite of E.J’s pre-paleo). While technically, the wine may not be Paleo, a lot of the alcohol cooks out anyway, so we should probably be ok.
E.J. and I agree that this turned out tasting better than many of the versions I’ve done in the past. The flavor was awesome, so let’s see if I can remember what I did..
1 pkg chicken tenderloins
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup marsala wine
1/4 cup port (I used a tawny)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tbsp butter or ghee
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tsp arrowroot powder (or less if you want a thinner sauce)
In a wide bowl, mix together almond flour, salt, thyme & oregano
In another bowl, beat egg until fluffy
Melt coconut oil in large skillet in med-high heat until hot
Dredge chicken pieces in egg and then coat with almond flour mixture
Arrange chicken in skillet and cook until first side is brown
Turn over chicken and cook for a few minutes until bottom side is starting to set.
Add mushrooms (try to arrange in between the chicken) and pour both wines over chicken and mushrooms.
Cover and saute for 5-8 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
Remove chicken and set aside
Melt butter/ghee and into the sauce
In a small bowl, add arrowroot powder to chicken broth and whisk together until blended.
Add arrowroot mixture to sauce and mix until sauce is thick.
Serve pan sauce over chicken
I made zucchini noodles to go with this, and it was fantastic. Enjoy!
A number of health-related articles out there will tell you that the secret to staying on a healthy diet is preparation. Like many people, when I’m tired or stressed, my resolve to eat healthy foods is definitely tested, and having a plan in place for these situations helps immensely. That means having readily available healthy and satisfying meals in the fridge or freezer, ready to eat with minimal prep.
If you’ve taken a look at some Paleo recipes, you’ll find something common among them – there are a LOT of vegetables and require a lot of chopping, slicing, sauteeing, etc. This adds up to a lot of time and effort, and can be quite daunting when facing the prospect of a meal like this after a long day at work, or worse, when you’ve had to work late and you’re starving already. So enter Sunday, Cook Day.
I tend to be routine-oriented already, so Sunday is already my day for weekly chores like laundry and grocery shopping. Now in addition to these weekly activities, I always make 2-3 dishes that are fridge/freezer friendly and can be portioned out over the week for packed lunches or quick dinners.
First I start with 2 lbs of bacon cooked and cooled on paper towels. This bacon is then put in a gallon ziploc and used for breakfasts and other dishes that need crumbled bacon during the week. E.J.’s also been known to grab a piece or two for a snack if our eating schedule gets off.
Soups are also great for this – I’ve made a butternut squash soup several times now (which freezes well too) and I’ve got a chili recipe that I’ve created that we also make regularly now when it’s still cold outside (I’ll post that recipe sometime this week). Casseroles, like the Tex-Mex Casserole that E.J. likes so much are great for this as are things like meatloaf, meatballs, or smoked ribs.
While it’s fair to say that my Sundays are a lot less restful than they used to be, the extra standing and moving required is actually a good way for me to get exercise in without running so my knees can take a break. Plus, the better I eat, the more energy I have, so I’m looking for something active to do more than I used to anyway.
So, today the scale and I are not really on speaking terms. So instead of focusing on my frustration I’m going to take the opportunity to point out some lovely things about being 50 lbs lighter than I was 6 months ago (so I can remind myself why I’m doing this). Here goes:
I can shop in almost any store for clothes. This is the best part about the weightloss so far. I can walk into any store, find something in my size, and it looks decent. Maybe not great, but pretty ok. And then there are the dresses. I NEVER wore dresses before unless I had to and now I actually wear one to work occasionally. It feels like pigs should be flying outside my office window.
I don’t hate pictures of myself anymore. I can kind of see where the kids are coming from with all this selfie stuff when I don’t hate every picture I take. Granted there are more flattering angles than others, but generally if I decide to take a picture, there’s at least one or two that I don’t mind looking at.
I can wear heeled shoes. Yeah, kind of a weird one, but when you’re heavy, high heels HURT. I still can’t wear them everyday because my knees don’t like it, but I figure if I wear heels to work a couple of times a week, I’ll get more stable on them eventually.
My thighs don’t rub together anymore. I know, this one is kinda TMI, but this is a really yucky BPP (big people problem).
My skin is clearer. Even though I’m nearing 40, I still struggle with facial acne, and I have noticed a significant reduction in acne since the diet change. I still get a zit from time-to-time, but not the makes-your-whole-face-hurt kind like I used to.
I have way more energy. It’s been pouring rain the last 2 mornings, so I haven’t been able to do a morning run. This makes me antsy. I’ve gotten to the point where I need fresh air and some exercise to feel normal. What is wrong with me?
I have more confidence. In almost everything. Somehow being closer to a normal weight has made me feel way more confident in my thoughts and feelings, or at least in sharing them. I guess that’s why I’m doing this blog. I finally feel confident enough to talk about what I’m thinking and feeling, and I think that’s perhaps the biggest benefit of all.
When E.J. and I started our Whole 30, I read a lot about sugar and what it does to our bodies long term. I guess I always knew that sugar was bad for me, but I always thought it was kind of like caffeine – something that was bad, but not going to kill you long-term. In fact, growing up, so much emphasis was put on low-fat foods that sugar was considered the lesser of the 2 evils. But when you start reading about Paleo and Whole 30, there are some things that you’ve observed with your own experiences that just seem to make sense all of a sudden. Here are some truths I’ve observed personally over my journey:
Sugar is everywhere – like, in way more places than you think it should or would be. Finding any type of processed foods that don’t contain some form of sugar (dextrose, corn starch, corn syrup, cane sugar, etc) is really hard, and requires careful reading of labels.
Sugar is addictive – as in cocaine-like addiction. Seriously.
Sweet (ANY sweet) feeds the Dragon
Ok, that last one is really hard to admit until you have actually tried a Whole 30, but I swear it’s true. ANY sweet, and that means artificial sweeteners, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and other sweeteners that you can technically have under Paleo & Primal will feed the Dragon.
Call it a sweet tooth, a sugar craving or whatever you like, but Whole 30 introduced me to the term “Sugar Dragon” and I think it’s spot on for me. And mine is such a monster, I decided to call him George. George and I have a long and sordid history together, and even when I am able to banish George for short periods of time, he’s always there lurking in the shadows.
This past weekend I was describing our diet to some friends who are starting to dabble in Paleo and were asking questions about sweets. I explained that the beauty of Paleo is that there is pretty much a Paleo version of any food out there – most are not going to be exact replicas, but often are very tasty in their own right, so they’re easy to transition to. So of course, I was challenged to make a Paleo chocolate chip cookie… oh hell yes, challenge accepted! (And I had already had a couple of glasses of wine which (duh) also becomes sugar, so I had primed the pump, so to speak)
Good news, I found a Paleo chocolate chip cookie that is absolutely TO DIE FOR. Bad news, it fed George, and I found myself craving cookies all day the next day. For me, it seems I can handle sweet better when it’s paired with savory – like honey & mustard glazes or a little balsamic vinegar with pork, but the minute I start having dessert-like sweets, even when made from better sugars than refined sugar, I have to watch out for George. And George is a beast – I mean dreaming about donuts and waffles bad. The only cure is to banish the sugars from the diet again for a few days and the cravings go away, but it’s that first 24 hours that is the slippery slope towards going back to my old habits.
Good news again is that I’m getting better at recognizing George and knowing how to tame him when he appears. You see, while E.J.’s strategy involves restricting temptation as much as possible and trying to have a mindset of NEVER eating certain things again, I’m taking a much more practical approach. There will be days when I am going to choose to eat something off-diet, or borderline off-diet (like this salted paleo fudge and paleo thin mints which are also really good). But if I can learn to recognize the ledge and step back from it rather than assume I’m already falling and I might as well hit the ground, then I’m just that much closer to a happier, healthier me (both mentally and physically).
I may not ever be able to slay George completely, but maybe he and I can learn to live together with a healthy mutual respect.
Ok, so for those that don’t know me already, I’m a geeky software developer-turned-manager chick, and some traditions must be upheld. So, Hello World! I’ve never been much of a good blogger in the past, because frankly, I never seem to have much to say that I feel is worthy to publish to the very public and permanent realm of the Internet, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have something to share.
After being a pretty heavy person most of my life, I am less than 20 lbs from being “Normal”. I’ve lost more than 50 lbs since September, and I’ve dropped 4 dress sizes. Now, any rational person would say, “That’s amazing! You should be so proud of yourself!” and while I am to some degree, the truth of the matter is that I’m terrified. I know that makes absolutely no sense, but it’s the truth. Part of me thinks this is just some kind of fluke, and that any day now, reality will set in and I’ll start gaining it all back, and part of me is afraid that I’ll never feel “normal” if I keep the weight off. You see, there’s a kind of bliss in ignoring your weight. The freedom to eat what you want, where you want, when you want is enormously satisfying and is one of the great pleasures of my adult life.
I live in Houston, the fattest city in America and home to an incredible quality and quantity of restaurants. You could eat every meal at a different place for years and never repeat. And because there are so many restaurants here, they have to be good (both in food and service and price) or they don’t survive. Good food, at good prices, delivered with a smile vs. grocery shopping, planning, prepping, chopping, and slaving in a hot kitchen only to be rewarded with a mountain of dishes and dirty countertops – it’s a wonder anyone cooks anymore. And for years and years we did what every other busy family with kids did – we ate quick and cheap on the run between everywhere else because it was convenient and way less stress (as long as the kids were behaving reasonably well). The price we paid was with our health and our weight. And because everyone else is doing it too, it’s easy to ignore the ever increasing waistline.
But all of that blissful ignorance takes a toll. Small pains become big ones, and heart disease, cancer, and other scary medical conditions start happening to people around you and at some point you have to ask yourself – what are the chances that I’m next? E.J. and I both had high blood sugar and were technically diabetic. We were starting to get tingling and small pains in our arms and legs, and under it all is a well-repressed sense of self-disgust that just wouldn’t go away with the standard rationalizations anymore. At what point is enough enough?
Honestly, if it had been up to me, I don’t think anything would have changed. E.J. finally hit his breaking point – and for his sake I agreed to go down this crazy path. I told him he was out of his mind and that there was no way we were going to be able to change our diet so radically, but when someone you love with all of your heart looks you in the eye and tells you that they’re pretty sure that their life is at stake and that they need your help, you do what needs to be done. And here we are, almost 6 months later and more than 120 lbs lost between the 2 of us, and I’m still not doing it for me.
My goal with this is to share my thoughts, fears, successes and failures in the hopes that it inspires someone else to take one step and then another toward a healthier self. If not for yourself, then for the people in your life who love you fiercely.